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Essay Humanities Nonfiction Theory

Toward QTPOC Community: A Theory in the Flesh, an Open Letter, a Closing Wound

By V. Jo Hsu, 2021

Building on work by Ono,1 Calafell,2 and Simmons et al.,3 who use the letter as autobiographical performance, this essay/letter explores trans and queer of color (QTPOC) community-building as rhetorically significant and ongoing labor. Using Moraga’s theory in the flesh,4 I draw from my own experience as a student of Third World feminisms and as a trans nonbinary queer Taiwanese American to query how QTPOC can address intracommunal conflict and harm. This application of intimate, interpersonal address also challenges the field(s) of rhetoric to reconsider the forms of writing given prominence as “rigorous” work as well as the implied audiences of those texts. What and how might we write if we prioritize the people we wish to call into community and the relationships we most value? How do we approach and evaluate work that centers one another’s survival? Although the open letter has become increasingly popular as a means of calling out, this essay spotlights the openness of this form, inviting responses that might facilitate community accountability and healing. Finally, this essay is a tribute to the QTPOC mentors and kin who have made my life possible, as well as to my QTPOC students, who give me courage to fight for worlds where we can all thrive.

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